The Role of Religion in the Formation of America
Religion has played a large role throughout History. Entire nations have been founded on the ideals of one religion or another, and many wars have been fought purely for religious reasons. In fact there are wars still going on that are almost completely religiously motivated. New Religions may form, old religions may die or change, but they will always be a part of our culture and society. Religion always seems to play a large role in the formation of societies and cultures, and the history of the United States is no different from that of the rest of the world. Religion played a major role in the formation of the United States of America. More specifically between 1607 when American was first settled as British Colonies and the 1850’s. In the United States religion has indirectly caused two wars and been the reason for many reforms. Additionally, the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which was one of the earliest colonies created, was started as a religious haven for the Puritans. This in turn led to other colonies in the north being formed for religious reasons as well.
The Early Northern Colonies were founded exclusively for religious reasons. The Massachusetts Bay Colony, which was the first Northern Colony created, was created so that the Puritans could escape the religious turmoil in Britain at the time. As James A. Henretta, David Brody, and Lynn Dumenil point out in America a Concise History, the Puritans believed that religion should have more power over the government. In other words the laws of the bible were more important then the laws of the state (45). In John Winthrop’s famous speech, “The Modell of Christian Charity,” he speaks of a few ideals, which shape the way the colony will be run. One of those ideals was the contract with god. Each Puritan had a contract with god that he or she must full fill. The idea of the contract is that you must follow god’s word as it is printed in the bible. Another ideal was that Winthrop proclaimed that the Puritans must like, “A city upon a hill.” By this Winthrop meant that the Puritans and their colony should be a model of what Christian society should be like. The whole world would look up to their settlement and aspire to be like them.
The influence that Winthrop’s speech had could easily be seen throughout the northern colonies. Because many of the northern colonies were founded for religious reasons, religion played a large role in everyday life during these times. If you were found to violate your contract with god you were kicked out of the colony, forced to live in the woods with the Indians where, more often the not, they would kill you. Roger Williams was an example of this. He criticized many of Winthrop's views on the Puritan society such as the right of the Puritans to seize Native American land (Henretta, 47). Williams and his followers were exiled from the colony, and ended up starting their own colony,...